House Judiciary Committee Advances Antitrust Bills That Target Big Tech

The House Judiciary Committee has approved a package of six antitrust bills targeting tech companies, including one that could prohibit Amazon from selling its own branded products.

The bills, which were passed by the committee over a two-day session beginning on Wednesday, address an array of issues that were flagged in a recent 450-page report by Democrats on the House Judiciary's antitrust subcommittee.

That report alleged that Apple, Amazon, Google and Facebook maintained their market dominance by copying or purchasing competitive rivals, and engaged in “self-preferencing, predatory pricing, or exclusionary conduct.”

The most controversial of the bills -- the Ending Platform Monopolies Act, sponsored by Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) -- narrowly cleared the committee Thursday by a 21-20 vote.

That measure would prohibit platforms from owning businesses that offer competing services.

One practical result could be that Amazon would not be able to sell its own branded products if they compete with merchandise offered by companies that sell through Amazon's marketplace, according to the Seattle Times.

Another bill passed by the committee -- The American Choice and Innovation Online Act, sponsored by Rep. David Cicilline (D-Rhode Island) -- would prohibit some large platforms to give preferential treatment to business they own.

Cicilline said on Twitter last week that the measure would prohibit “companies like Amazon from manipulating their marketplaces to promote their own products.”

The measure could also prohibit Apple from pre-installing iPhone apps, among other consequences.

The bills were introduced on a bipartisan basis, but drew some opposition from both sides of the aisle.

Some Republican lawmakers expressed opposition, arguing that the bills would not address supposed suppression of conservative views by by tech companies. Right-wing officials have criticized Silcion Valley companies for allegedly squelching conservative views, despite a lack of empirical evidence.

Some Democratic lawmakers from California also objected to the bills.

The new tech industry-funded think tank Chamber of Progress, which opposed Cicilline's and Jayapal's bills, criticized the committee's move.

“Voters want Congress to properly regulate tech like any other industry, but I haven’t seen armies of consumers marching on Washington demanding a ban on Amazon Basics, iPhones coming with iMessage, or Google maps in search results,” Chamber of Progress CEO Adam Kovacevich stated Thursday. “If these bills advance, Congress is marching headlong into a massive backlash from consumers.”

But advocates of antitrust enforcement praised news that the bills advanced.

“The legislation is a major first step forward in protecting American democracy and American liberty from the power and control of platform monopolists,” the Open Markets Institute stated Thursday.

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